May 2008

1 May 2008

Legal and regulatory developments

The last month has seen a number of significant regulatory developments in areas relating to genetic testing, and the derivation and use of embryonic stem cells. In the US there have been calls for increased regulation of direct to consumer genetic tests(30 April), and the European Society of Human Genetics has issued new recommendations on patenting and licensing genetic tests (7 May)

The German Parliament voted to ease legal restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research (15 April), whilst legislation to permit therapeutic cloning legislation has continued to move forward in Australia (10 April). In the UK, progress of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill through parliament has thrown up several key issues for debate, including proposed amendments to facilitate human-animal hybrid embryo research (8 April) and to prohibit the selection of a ‘disabled’ embryo over a normal one for implantation during prenatal genetic diagnosis procedures (25 April). The UK Human Tissue Authority has issued new regulations governing the collection of cord blood from newborn babies for banking as a potential source of therapeutic stem cells (13 May), and in the US, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act has finally received congressional approval (9 May).

Evaluation and consultation

In the UK, the House of Lords has issued a call for evidence on genomic medicine (22 April) and the Department of Health has released a progress review on the 2003 Genetics White Paper (28 April). A new report from the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies discusses potential improvements to Health Technology Assessments (23 April), whilst the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has launched a public consultation on Human Biobanks and Genetic Research Databases (20 April).

Genomics research

New international research collaborations have been launched in pharmacogenetics (29 April) and to develop a new tool for diagnosis and monitoring of coeliac disease (7 May), and a new centre for proteomic and genomic research has opened in South Africa (18 April). In the UK, plans to expand the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium to make it the largest ever study of the genetics of common diseases have been announced (21 April), whilst researchers have reported some preliminary success in the use of gene therapy for a serious form of inherited eye disorder, and the identification of possible distinct clinical subtypes of chronic fatigue syndrome / ME based on genetic classifications (11 May).

Selected new reviews and commentaries

Our selection of recent articles of interest (4 May).

Other recent news and research

See also the Genomics & Health Weekly Update from the CDC Office of Public Health Genomics.